Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 6:13

13 And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, and gave them a charge unto the children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.

The Lord gave great detail to Moses for how the delivering of captive Israel would go. He explained exactly what miracles to perform, that Pharaoh would not listen to him, and how the Lord would work wonders to finally secure the Israelites’ freedom. He also described how Moses would return with the Israelites to Mount Horeb and there serve the Lord.

But what we do not hear is an exhaustive detailing for how Moses would lead the people forty years in the wilderness, becoming their prophet/father for the rest of his life, and the law and legacy that he would leave to them for countless generations. All we hear in this verse is that God “gave them a charge…to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.”

Sometimes God details our paths out exhaustively, but typically it is only to a point. Much is often left unsaid, to be discovered at the time of facing it. Moses had a sense of his purpose and his calling, but not necessarily the full vision of whom he would become.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 6:2-3

2 And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord: 

3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.

We previously read of Moses asking the Lord what His name was so that he could tell it to the Israelites, and God told Moses to introduce Him as “I AM,” which is a translated form of YHWH/Yahweh/Jehovah. In today’s verses we learn the additional detail that the patriarchs did not, themselves, know this name. Though God had an extremely close relationship with these historical men, apparently He never disclosed to them His actual name. He was just their “God,” or their “Lord.”

However, this fact is not reflected in the earlier text of the Bible. This is not at all that the first time that the name of Jehovah has been used. It first appeared in Genesis 2:4 (the English translation writes this name as “the LORD” instead of Jehovah), and there are also verses where the patriarchs are said to speak the name of “Jehovah” (written in English as all-caps GOD). The simplest explanation is that the patriarchs did not actually use God’s name, but when their account was written, the name was inserted by the author, since at that time the name would have been common knowledge.

And if this is the case, then for Moses to have information revealed to him that the patriarchs never had would signify how pivotal his role was to the Israelite people. Put simply, Moses was the single most influential figure sent to the Hebrews until the birth of Christ. Of course, at the time of this conversation with the Lord, Moses had not yet done anything remarkable for the people of Israel. God already knew Moses’s destiny, though, and entrusted him with information that was befitting of who he would become, not who he already was.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 5:3

3 And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.

Moses and Aaron again petitioned for the Israelites to go make sacrifices in the wilderness. This time they showed more decorum, using language like “let us go, we pray thee.” They also gave stronger reasoning for why they needed to do this thing, stating that God would punish them with curses and death if they failed to obey.

However, this is one of the times I wish I knew how to read Hebrew so I could whether this interpretation accurately captures what was written here. Using an interlinear bible, I see that the phrase “he fall upon us” is derived from יִפְגָּעֵ֔נוּ (yifgatno). Then, when I search for the definition of this term by itself, I only get back “will be hurt.” Looking at the other parts of the verse I still don’t see where the recipient of this hurting is defined as the Israelites. Now I know that Hebrew works differently than English, and that the context of a word or phrase can change the meaning entirely, but it does make me wonder whether the subject of the “will be hurt” was only assumed by the translators to be the Israelites. Perhaps a scholar of ancient Hebrew text could weigh in on this, but it does occur to me that if Moses and Aaron had actually stated that God would fall upon the Egyptians with pestilence and the sword, then it would be a more truthful prediction of the future, and it would better explain the great anger that the Pharaoh shows next.

And if this is the case, then it seems that while Pharaoh took what Moses and Aaron said as a threat, it might really have been a heartfelt warning. “Let us go, we pray thee. We’re trying to spare you the reckoning that is nearly upon you!” But Pharaoh couldn’t or wouldn’t understand, and his arrogance proved to be his downfall.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 5:2

2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.

Pharaoh’s initial response is actually quite civil. At this point he did not punish Moses and Aaron for their boldness and he did not use angry or threatening words. However in another two verses this calm demeanor falls away and a more vicious layer will manifest.

The language of Pharaoh’s response is meaningful. “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord.” This will be a major theme throughout the Bible. Who is God? Why should we follow Him? There will be Elisha, who must contend with the priests of Baal to prove which God is the true one. There will be Rabashakeh, general of the Assyrian army, who will ask how the Lord can deliver Israel from their siege when none of the gods of the other lands could do so. There will be King Darius, who will come to learn that his servant Daniel served the one, true God.

All throughout the Bible there will be those that ask these core questions. Who is God, and why should I follow Him? It will be a challenge posed by many outsiders, but also by the Israelites when they forget the faith of their fathers and fall to idolatry. It is a question that is still posed today, even among self-proclaimed Christians who question how much they should defer to the word of God before it becomes embarrassing.

Pharaoh is an example to all of us. He did not know the Lord, he did not know why he should follow the Lord, and so he refused what God has commanded. We will observe what follows that decision.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 5:1

1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.

Pharaoh is given his first chance to free the Israelites. Moses and Aaron don’t waste any time in lengthy preamble, they get straight to the point, and they don’t show any special reverence to the Pharaoh, either. It is also worth noting that they do not speak on their own authority, it is clear right from the beginning that this demand is from “the Lord God of Israel.”

Something that I never noticed in my previous readings was that they were approaching Pharaoh under false pretenses. They told Pharaoh that they simply meant to have a feast in the wilderness, after which they would return, but clearly they didn’t intend to ever come back! Further on in the story it will become apparent that Pharaoh was perfectly aware of what their real purpose was, so it wouldn’t be accurate to say that he was actually tricked, but it was false pretenses still the same.

My understanding of this is that the Lord was not content to just free captive Israel, He was here to repay the many crimes that the Israelites had suffered at the hands of the Egyptians, and He would do so by cursing them, by plundering their wealth, and by slaying all their firstborn. Pushing the Pharaoh to agree to something that he knew was a trick was the final step for the Lord’s utter demoralization of the Egyptian people. It was a recompense for the earlier generations that had welcomed the Israelites with open arms, but then turned that gift into a punishment. Frankly, this is a side of God we don’t often consider, but the fact is He is a jealous God, and He does demand equal retribution for our crimes.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 4:29-31

29 And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:

30 And Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.

31 And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.

Aaron spoke, the signs were performed, and the people believed, just as the Lord had foretold. The Israelites were ready for deliverance, receiving the promise with reverence, not skepticism.

Years ago, Moses had already tried to help the Israelites and he had been rejected. But back then he had acted alone, according to his own wisdom and ability, whereas now he had come as an extension of the Lord. It can be hard to try to do something good, fail at it, and then accept that triumph can only come by giving it over to God. That requires great humility, and surrendering of self, and trusting in uncontrolled outcomes. This is very challenging and daunting to do, but for the most important things in life, it is the only way to succeed.

And as for Moses’s prior hesitancy, we never hear of it again. He resisted God’s plan leading up to this stage of the plan, but from this point on he remains a rock, constant and committed through every twist and turn.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 4:27-28

27 And the Lord said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him.

28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.

Not only did the Lord address Moses’s insecurities by assigning Aaron as a spokesperson, but He even sent Aaron to meet Moses along the way. The path God had described to Moses was forming itself before him, and Moses would come to the Israelites ready and prepared with his brother.

We do not get much insight to the relationship between Aaron and Moses. We will learn later that Aaron was born three years before Moses, presumably before the Pharaoh’s murderous decree, and thus he was allowed to live with his family unlike Moses. Aaron would have been there as his mother weaned infant Moses and may have had memories of the time. He would have been around when his younger brother was given away to the Egyptians, and we do not know what relationship Moses had with his real family after that. And then Moses had been in exile far from Aaron, living an entire life in Midian with the family he established there.

It seems quite likely, therefore, that the two were mostly strangers to one another, knowing who the other was, but not who they really were. Even so, their reunion was still full of brotherly love and care. Aaron kissed Moses when he saw him, and this happy reunion calls to mind a very similar one between Jacob and Esau. Unlike those two, though, Aaron and Moses’s reunion was to be permanent. They would now work side-by-side for the rest of their lives. Moses informed Aaron of all the details of the Lord’s plan, and now the two shared a united in purpose.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 4:24-26

24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him.

25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.

26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

These verses don’t seem to fit in very well with the broader narrative. We seem to be coming into the middle of a drama that we never heard the beginning of. And this could be the case. It is possible that these verses were part of a separate record about Moses, the beginning of which was lost, but this part was still inserted into the broader narrative for the sake of completion.

Whatever the case, apparently Moses had failed to follow the Abrahamic covenant which required each male to be circumcised. The fact that the Lord was angered enough to kill him makes me assume that Moses was not ignorant on the matter either. It seems likely to me that there had been some prior conversation about the matter already, for how else would Zipporah have known that this is what needed to happen?

And in this story we see an example of Zipporah being a good spouse to her husband, helping to improve him in his failings, as every husband and wife should aspire to do for one other. There are probably other lessons that could be derived from these verses, but I don’t feel comfortable trying to identify them without having a fuller context of what happened.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 4:21-23

21 And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:

23 And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

When Moses fled from Egypt, we were told that Pharaoh, himself, sought to slay him. Since God had assured Moses that everyone who sought his life was now dead, this must have been a new Pharaoh that Moses would contend with. So once again, the Israelite captivity had carried from one generation of rulership to another, still with no end in sight. This new Pharaoh would be given the chance to atone for the sins of his fathers, but the Lord tells Moses that the man will refuse, even in the face of Moses’s miracles. And because of the Pharaoh’s stubbornness, God will exact His vengeance upon the Egyptians, even to the slaying of all their firstborn.

It seems strange that God says, “I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” Undoubtedly God does have the ability to change the heart of a man, but typically we think of that as being to change the heart for the better, not for the worse. An argument could certainly be made that it feels unjust for God to prevent a man from repenting, and thus requiring him to receive a greater condemnation than he might otherwise have.

Now for me, personally, this passage is not a concern. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we believe that this passage is a mistranslation, and that what God said in this, and every other instance, was that Pharaoh would harden his own heart. Obviously, I don’t expect most other Christians to just accept that decision, and obviously there is a slippery slope in declaring certain passages of the Bible as being mistranslated. Before long one might excise any portion of the Bible that teaches something they find personally inconvenient, saying it must simply be a mistranslation. Even so, with serious gravity for the sacredness of the Biblical text, we must accept that it is possible that some parts of it might have been mangled over the years. The oldest, surviving version of the Old Testament is the Septuagint, which was a Greek translation made in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, BC. We no longer have the text that that translation was based off of, let alone the centuries and centuries of copying and translating scriptural text that came before.

If one insists that the text that we have today must be accurate, then there are still a number of commentators who refuse to accept that this passage means that God would harden the heart of a man. Some have suggested God merely means He will not be applying His grace to Pharaoh, and without it, Pharaoh’s heart will naturally remain hardened. Others assert that God really did harden Pharaoh’s heart, but that such a decision is His divine prerogative. I suppose it is up to you to make of this passage what you will.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 4:18-20

18 And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.

19 And the Lord said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.

20 And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

Moses’s communion with the Lord came to a close and he returned to the house of his father-in-law. Moses requested that Jethro would permit him return to the land of Egypt, which Jethro readily agreed to. This scene of leaving a father-in-law to return to one’s people reminds me a great deal of Jacob and Laban, though the father-in-law in that story was far less agreeable to the sudden separation!

Already the Lord informed Moses that Aaron was on his way to join him, and in these verses He provides yet another reassurance, telling Moses that all those who were in a position of power and sought to slay him are now dead. Moses will no longer be a hunted man.

Finally, in verse 20, we hear mention of Moses’s wife and sons, which is a reminder that he was a man who had his own life, his own household. He wasn’t losing all those parts of his life, but they were being changed. The life and the future that he thought he was following were being turned towards something new. This fact is symbolized in the final detail given at the end of verse 20: “and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.” Until just recently, that had been merely a shepherd’s staff, but now it was “the rod of God.” Like Moses, it had been remade for a new purpose.